Bible, Main, Spiritual Gifts, z61, z66
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Prophesying Proportionally

Proportional Russian nesting dolls Credit: Elentari86/Flickr/Creative Commons

Proportional Russian nesting dolls Credit: Elentari86/Flickr/Creative Commons

Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy according to the proportion of his faith. (Rom 12:6 NASV)

In this verse, Paul gives insight into how we are to function not only in prophecy, but all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

He says we should prophesy in proportion to our faith.

The word proportion “analogia” used in this verse is a rare word in the New Testament and only used this once. It is a mathematical term and means ratio or proportion. Technically, the term refers to the comparison of one number with another — for example 1:2 is as 2:4.

The word is also translated in the secular literature of that day to mean fused indicating an unbreakable connection. In this sense, the ability to prophecy is fused to faith.

At first glance, it seems pretty straight forward. We prophesy in direct proportion to our faith in God.

But here is the problem.

If this is true, then there are 89-year old grandmothers who should be prophesying to the nations.  They have a tremendous faith in God, so their gifting should be in direct proportion, but strangely it isn’t.

So what is Paul referring to here?

In fact, Paul is not saying we should prophesy in direct proportion to our faith in God, rather I suspect he is saying we should prophecy in proportion to faith in our “gifting.”

If this is true, then the verse takes on a completely different meaning.

Measure of faith

Paul is following up on a statement he made three verses earlier, when he wrote:

“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so to have sound judgment, as God has given to each a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3 NASV)

When it comes to spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit gives believers grace(s) or gifts. One may receive a grace for prophecy and another healing (v 6).

The necessary prerequisite for this gifting is being filled with the Holy Spirit, which is a second work of grace after salvation. This infilling is referred to several times in scripture and often in association with spiritual gifts (see Acts 19:6; Acts 10:45-46).

Then within each gifting, the Holy Spirit issues a “measure of faith.”  The word measure (Greek metron) refers to a predetermined fixed amount. This measure determines at what level we will function in the gift.

In terms of the prophetic, the Holy Spirit may give one believer a measure of faith to function in the gift of prophecy (1 Cor 12:10) while He gives another a measure of faith to become a full-blown prophet (Ephesians 4:11).

The prophet represents a larger measure of faith than the gift of prophecy. Conceivably within each of these two groups there are different measures of faith and different levels of prophetic unction.

But notice how Paul also adds that we are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Rom. 12:3). This is one of the biggest problems with spiritual gifts as we try to function beyond our level of gifting.

I have read stories of men and women of God demanding that they publicly be referred to an Apostle or Prophet. Some even insist that they be called Prophet (insert name). Maybe it’s just me, but I am immediately suspicious when someone demands a title.

I have met legitimate prophets who literally read your mail. I remember one who would be prophesying over a person and suddenly he would signal the sound room with a slashing movement to cut the microphone, so no one else would hear the word that was coming.

Invariably you would watch the person receiving the word began to heave and sob as God dealt with deep personal issues in their life.

Two things I noticed about these prophets. First they did not insist people call them a prophet. Second, they didn’t have to because based on their prophecies everyone knew they were.

But even legitimate prophets can think more highly of themselves. William Branham was an amazing prophet and faith healer during the 1950s and influenced a number of men and women who would become leaders in the modern Pentecostal movement.

But over time, Branham convinced himself that he was the end-times Elijah and one of the two witnesses mentioned in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 11).

Paul warns that if we think more highly of ourselves than we ought, we lose sound judgement (Rom 12:3). And that is exactly what happened to Branham who fell into deception as a result.

Simply prophesy the words that God gives you, don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought, and your level of gifting will become obvious to others.

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